Improvising the Bridge: A Study of Improvisational Teaching Skills and Educational Design in an Arts-Infused Inquiry-Based Science Teaching Context

Oded Ben-Horin, Ph.d candidate

1.1 Background: Improvisation cultivates a particular kind of ontology, namely, a complex combination of being lost in the moment and utterly present, an experience which also lies at the heart of inquiry-based learning. Yet precisely due to their ontological nature, such experiences are hard to express or teach, as they are characteristically performative and experiential. The opportunity for students to experience being present while lost in processes of creation, as is characteristic during improvisation, therefore holds important implications. An improvisation-based approach in educational settings, as is true in the arts, should welcome unexpected ideas and spontaneous discussion which may vary from an originally planned topic, potentially joining fields seemingly disconnected at first. And yet reaching for high educational quality must be supported by an even deeper stretch. The improvisation-based educational setting should allow instructors to communicate that they, too, both inside and out of classroom walls and hours, are in a continuous process of learning, secure enough to risk relinquishing control, “opening” the teaching structure to new, surprising influences: An overall conviction that inspiring a natural atmosphere of discovery and curiosity trumps any one specific fact or type of learning exercise.
Many educators experience improvisation as challenging to teach, precisely due to its fluid nature and elements which are in many ways impossible to predict. Structuring lessons as improvisational “spaces”, represented by the didactical approaches proposed below, thus represents an arena in which research aiming for pedagogical quality may be conducted, potentially enabling greater flexibility and therefore closer, more direct and naturally occurring connections between teacher education curricula and classroom dynamics.